Carl Sandburg, Yes was written specifically for young readers, but, on the whole, Rogers does not condescend to his juvenile audience. In fact, the book’s predominantly colloquial language—of which Sandburg would no doubt have approved—is liberally spiced with a refreshingly rich and challenging vocabulary. Like most books intended for a juvenile audience, however, this biography is characterized by the simple presentation of the facts together with clear explications, not by depth or sophistication of analysis.
The Sandburg that emerges from Rogers’ biography is a man of simple needs and tastes. The author claims that Sandburg favored “workaday” language to florid rhetoric. He also consistently supported causes of the Left while being undogmatic enough to have voted (however regretfully) for Herbert Hoover in his first, and successful, bid for the presidency. Rogers also portrays him as totally committed to the idea that literature need not be the province of the intellectual elite or the highbrow alone.
Yet Rogers avoids the still-controversial question of whether, nice and noble sentiments aside, Sandburg’s poetry really stands up as poetry. Omitting a discussion of such a basic issue can be justified in the context of a biography, however, particularly one whose concerns more closely mirror social history, not aesthetics. Even so, the emphasis in Carl Sandburg, Yes is very much on its subject’s literary...
(The entire section is 567 words.)
Rogers’ study was warmly received by reviewers of Booklist and Library Journal, among other periodicals. The biography was especially commended for its sense of accuracy—liberally quoting, as it does, from Sandburg’s autobiography and from his other writings.
Rogers depicts Sandburg as, among other things, a perennial radical—first a populist, later a socialist—and a person somewhat acquainted with Marxist doctrine. Also mentioned, however, is the fact that Sandburg knew no less than five American presidents: Herbert Hoover, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson. In this light, Sandburg seemed—to many impatient young radicals of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, when Rogers’ book was published—stuffy, old-fashioned, and representing a kind of fraudulent radicalism. In retrospect, however, it is evident that these two epochal and radical ideologies of the Left had much in common. Furthermore, the divergence between the two movements probably speaks well, not of the disaffected 1960’s, but of Sandburg and his generation.